Most of us parents (if not all of us) absolutely love to share our children’s pictures online. We want to show our family and friends, and perhaps the world, how our little ones are growing up.
Sadly, there are going to be people who may come across our children’s pictures online and use them for their own nefarious purposes. So to warn you about the potential dangers of sharing your children's pictures online, we list down the various ways other people can use them without your permission.
How malicious people can use your children's pictures online
Baby role playing
A new trend on Instagram shows people grabbing photos of babies online without permission and posting them on their profiles as their own kids.
Some users go as far as creating fictional families to make the lie even more believable. They even do live updates of how “their baby” is doing.
You can search for these posts on Instagram using the hashtags #babyrp, #kidrp, #openrp, or #adoptionrp (“rp” being “role playing”).
While there may be no physical harm done to your child, baby role playing is unsettling and is considered as identity theft. It is also a breach of intellectual property rights.
It’s quite easy to take innocent family photos from blogs, social media accounts, and photo-sharing websites without strict privacy settings. This enables pedophiles to create their own child pornography using photo-editing software and snapshots of family photos.
Sometimes, the photos will be untouched but are linked with inappropriate content, captions, and comments.
A mother in Utah had the scare of her life when she found pictures of her two young daughters on a website with disturbingly sexual captions.
Some companies mine the internet for content that they do not ask permission to use. Eventually, they end up finding children’s pictures online that some innocent parent has posted and use that photo on their products.
That’s what happened to one family whose photo ended up being used in a store ad in Czech Republic.
There are many other instances of companies using photos from families across the globe. The families who spotted the photo thefts were fortunate enough because someone else found their photos and alerted them about it. There are still many more incidents of this that have gone unreported.
Now that we’ve talked about how easy it is for people to swipe photos from social media accounts that have loose privacy settings, the next step is unsurprising. Eventually, people will use these children’s pictures online to create fake profiles.
Some people don’t make fake profiles out of these photos just for fun. They most likely use it to scam other people because these stolen images lend credence to their profiles. It’s one of the most commonly reported problems on Facebook, and is even a part of Facebook's frequently asked questions.
Now here’s a case of people using children’s pictures online for fun. If you’ve posted a funny picture of your child on the internet, they might just become the next meme sensation.
It happened to one mum who posted a picture of her daughter pretending to be furious while on a swing. Shortly after, someone swiped the photo and turned it into a viral meme, with the caption: Mood Swing.
Though some people may think it’s harmless fun, when it’s done without your permission, it’s not funny. Once it’s out there, it’s there forever and will be hard to delete.
What can you do?
While there are safety issues with posting your children’s pictures online, it doesn’t mean you can’t share these photos anymore. The chances of these things happening to you are pretty low, but it’s still better to take the right precautions to avoid it.
Here’s what you can do:
1. Make the page or photos private
You can read about the privacy settings and guidelines of the website you’re using to learn more about how you can make your content private. Learn more about who can see it and who can access it.
There’s even an infographic that illustrates how you can make your online content private on the most popular social media sites.
2. Be mindful of the “friends” whom you allow to see your content
Aside from going private, there are ways in which you can allow people to see your content. You don’t have to share all of your content with all of your friends and their friends. Check your privacy settings to ensure only your close friends and family can see your posts.
3. Watermark your photos
Putting a watermark on the photos you post online can deter other users from swiping your photo because that makes it unusable for their purposes. It also helps you prove that the photo is yours.
You can use some apps to help you watermark your photos.
4. Don't share your location
Whatever you post online, don’t share details that identify your location. You can always turn off the location settings on your phone or tablet so potential malicious users won’t know where you live.
5. Post low-resolution photos
You’re not submitting photos to a magazine, so it would be best to use low-res versions of them to post online.
This makes your photos unusable for professional use, especially advertisements.
6. Be picky about the photos you share
Malicious users are less likely to steal your photos if they include other people. They also won’t use photos where children aren’t looking in the camera and are fully clothed.
Be careful about sharing children's pictures online
Sharing our children's pictures online shouldn't be stressful, but we just have to be mindful of who can see our photos and whom we're connected with. Being mindful of our social media habits can become our routine in order to avoid problematic encounters with strangers online.